One lakh people may be evacuated in Russia's Far East hit by the worst flooding in 120 years.
Torrential rains coming from typhoon-hit China have been battering the neighbouring Russian regions for the past four weeks, causing rivers to swell and flood hundreds of villages and townships.
More than 23,000 people have been already moved to safety as deluge of biblical proportions submerged more than 140 villages and towns along the region’s largest Amur River, which serves as a natural border between Russia and China.
“The flood zone is unique in its vastness: over 2,000 kilometers from west to east,” said Vladimir Stepanov, head of the National Centre for Crisis Management of Russia’s Emergency Ministry.
The Amur River has risen above the 7-metre mark, the highest level since 1895 when monitoring began. Water has flooded streets and ground floors of some multi-storeyed apartment houses in Khabarovsk, a major city with a population of over half a million people.
Local authorities said up to 40,000 city residents may have to be evacuated in coming days as the river is expected to rise by another 80 centimetres.
“A total of about 100,000 people may have to be moved from their houses to safety in the [Far Eastern] Federal District,” said Viktor Ishayev, presidential envoy to the Far East.
Thirty six thousand emergency workers, army personnel and volunteers have been deployed to fight the floods with the help of 6,000 vehicles, boats and aircraft. They are erecting dams, evacuating people and distributing food and water.
“Some localities have been inundated by five metres of water for weeks, ruining buildings and destroying crops,” said Dmitry Aleshkovsky, a volunteer from Moscow who helps battle the floods.
The Agriculture Ministry said floods have ruined crops on an area of almost 7,000 square kilometres.
The Defence Ministry has airlifted 20 tons of vaccines and medicines to the disaster area to prevent a flare-up of typhoid fever and other contagious diseases.
Meteorologists blame the warming Arctic for this year’s record rains in China and Russia. They say shrinking ice cover in the Arctic Ocean has caused west-to-east upper-level winds to be replaced by south-to-north winds that have brought tropical rains to as far north as Russia’s Magadan Region close to the Arctic Circle.
Floods are expected to reach their peak on August 24-28.